WORTHING’S Tourist Information Centre will have closed its doors by the end of February, but the new leader of Worthing Borough Council is adamant the decision will benefit visitors to the town.
New tourist ‘touchpoints’ at the Pavilion Theatre and Worthing Museum will be operational before the existing TIC in Marine Parade is closed.
These information points will be staffed by a fully trained team and will provide information about the local area. Three red telephone boxes owned by Adur and Worthing councils will also be transformed into mini tourist information kiosks.
The council has confirmed there will be some redundancies as part of the transformation of the tourist information service but was unable to comment further as the ‘proper process’ needed to be followed and it ‘would be unfair on the staff involved’ to do to so.
Worthing Borough Council’s executive member for resources and new leader, councillor Daniel Humphreys, worked in the tourism industry as a policy and strategy advisor to regional and national trade bodies from 2007 to 2013.
He said: “The overwhelming evidence is that there are better, tried and tested ways for local communities to support the tourism sector than by investing large amounts of council taxpayer money in to a TIC. This is a step forward for tourism promotion in Worthing.
“The team are already working incredibly hard to get the tourist touchpoints open at the Pavilion Theatre and museum before the TIC closes in late February.
“There’s a huge amount to do and get involved with across Worthing and the surrounding areas – and with a massive events programme planned for the summer, I’m sure that these changes will be of huge benefit to all of our visitors.
“It is absolutely correct that Worthing Borough Council should invest in supporting and promoting tourism. However, this is not our money, it is council taxpayers’ money and we should only spend it on the most effective means of tourism promotion. Council officers are already delivering important changes and it’s onwards and upwards for tourism in Worthing.”
The council decided to relocate the TIC to The Dome Cinema in 2011, shortly before Mr Humphreys was elected onto the council.
Mr Humphreys said he welcomed the decision at the time but was also aware that many leading destinations were questioning the value of TICs as a model for effectively supporting the sector.
According to the council, Worthing welcomes more than three million visitors each year, with around 280,000 staying overnight.
As the summer approaches, the council said it will work with the Worthing Town Centre Initiative to form partnerships with local businesses that are keen to display tourism information.
Shop owner Paul O’Brien, who runs I Love Candy in Bath Place, wrote an open letter to the council when the decision was first made to close the centre, expressing his concern. Mr O’Brien said his views had changed slightly since then. However, he still criticised the council for a lack of consultation with local businesses.
“I think it will have a negative impact on certain groups, especially the over 60s, which is a fair chunk of people who visit Worthing,” he said. “Some of their ideas are good but I don’t think they have consulted enough with businesses. I think it’s quite haphazard.”
Mr O’Brien said he would be seeking a meeting with Scott Marshall, Worthing Borough Council’s director for the economy, and Sharon Clarke, manager of Worthing’s Town Centre Initiative.
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